Alberta Growth Marketing Symposium

Yesterday, I attended the Alberta Growth Marketing Symposium. Organized by Alberta Innovates, the event was a gathering of startups, government innovation agencies, and other members of the startup community to discuss and learn about strategies for sales and marketing that increase revenue. Keynote speakers included Sujan Patel of MailShake, Oli Gardner of Unbounce, Dani Hart of GrowthHackers, Carey Houston of 321 Sales Academy, and Jana Taylor of TechSprout.

Growth is a very important topic for Alberta startups. In my experience, many ventures, even the ones with valuable products and an incredible team, fail to gain traction to generate sufficient cash flow to operate the business. Part of the reason is the scant resources and education placed on real marketing and sales activity. The Growth Marketing Symposium was a new way to teach young companies about sales and marketing and motivate them to get out of the office and earn some revenue.

Key Learnings

Be a T-shaped Marketer

Your venture will likely participate in a high number of different marketing channels (e.g. PPC, SEO, direct mail, content, paid media), but spreading your marketing budget too thin will not allow you to make any real impact. Instead, choose the two or three channels most impactful for your target customers, and spend a significant portion of your marketing budget there. For the remaining channels, make small investments to maintain presence only.

Identify Bottlenecks in Your Sales Funnel

A sales funnel consists of a number of states that leads/customers will move through (or eject from) during their sales engagement with your company. Typical stages are Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Loyalty, and Advocacy. Analyzing conversion rates between each stage will reveal specific transitions where the most amount of customers are leaving the funnel. The most common bottlenecks are in the Awareness and Conversion stages, but may be different for every company.

Spend a majority of resources to fix issues in whatever stage has the most severe bottleneck. Avoid spending time improving other stages until those bottlenecks are resolved. There is no point of spending cash on a campaign to add more customers to the top of the funnel if customers struggle when in the Conversion state.

Allocating Your Marketing Time and Dollars

Sujan suggests spending 40% of your time increasing traffic to your various marketing channels, and 40% of your time removing bottlenecks in your sales funnel. The remaining 20% of your time should be devoted to experimenting with crazy ideas – creative or wild ideas from the team for finding and converting new customers. The ROI on exploring these crazy marketing ideas might be small, but one unique thought or untested assumption might reveal a trove of new customers and revenue that would have normally remained untapped. Plus, you might have a great deal of fun with your team brainstorming and experimenting.

Effective Landing Pages Have a High Attention Ratio

Attention ratio (as I understand it) is the ratio of volume of focused content to volume of links and unrelated content on a landing page. The higher the attention ratio, the less likely a website visitor will be distracted or confused about the content on the landing page. They are more likely to understand the product being sold and to execute the desired call to action. Removing or minimizing unnecessary elements such as navigation menus and footer content is recommending to emphasize  the landing page is clear and understandable to the visitor.

Determine Your North Star Metric

A technology startup can quickly drown in the number and volume of metrics available for analysis. For simplicity, startups should focus on one single metric that is most crucial to the success of the business. This is known as the North Star Metric. For example, the North Star Metric for AirBnB might be the number of bookings made per night. For Google, it might be the number of clicks per day on all its PPC ads. Once this North Star Metric is identified, other measurements that influence this metric can be  specified. Doing so creates a single collection of metrics that are all interrelated, and activities that improve one will improve others.

To identify your North Star Metric, Dani suggests discussing the following questions among your team:

  1. Why did your team join the company?
  2. What is the core value customers receive from this product?
  3. How to quantify customer value?
  4. What will align everyone in the company?

Fastest Path to Value

Most customers become frustrated when they cannot immediately gain benefit from the product or service they purchased. Annoyed customers may be unlikely to recommend the product to their peers and may even stop using it altogether. To avoid this problem, startups should understand the concept of fastest path to value – how quickly can someone move from first encountering your product to gaining value from it. Removing, or deferring, steps on this path that are not absolutely essential  can prevent losing customers to a poor initial experience.

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